Looking after your mental health has never been more important, says Doug Sanham

21 May 2020

This Mental Health Awareness Week, take time to set a regular routine of looking after yourself and your teams, says Doug Sanham

Does anyone else miss their colleagues? I have never spent so much time at home in my entire life.

I believe that it is important for us to think about our teams right now. I know that with so much uncertainty we have a lot to think about, but we need them, don't we? And it's important that we're engaging with them to make sure that they are OK.

They might be completely alone. You might be their family, or their day-to-day release from home. You're usually their education, their motivation, their structure, their addiction, and, yes, of course, their pay packet. But like the business, all of this has changed, everything has stopped. And this is hard.

I've repeatedly said how difficult it is to go from 100 miles an hour to zero. Although we do get tired (yes, we're actually not superhuman), hospitality has some of the most innovative and energetic people going – and that energy stems from the top down.

There is a lot we can do to look out for our teams and ourselves. Once a week, throw together an ‘after-service' beer, a catch-up quiz, or a food or cocktail weekly challenge. Engage with them; get them motivated to do something. This once-a-week thing might be what they most look forward to, and face-to-face engagement can seriously reduce anxiety levels.

Pick up the phone. After all, they're family. Personally, I wouldn't suggest text groups, because they can be overwhelming, and people can suddenly rely on the sound of a text message tone.

And be honest with them about any updates and changes. If you are concerned about your business, they will be concerned about their job.

Isolation, for me, has been the strange, unwanted gift that hospitality needed – minus the lack of money, of course. It's given us something we've always said we don't have a lot of, and that's time.

Exercising and healthy eating couldn't be more important for our mental health now. Our physical wellbeing has a serious impact on our mental wellbeing, so reduce alcohol, increase movement, and get more vitamins in your system to get your immunity up.

I have a schedule, much like my mise en place in the kitchen, a list that I work with daily and tick off. I recommend trying to maintain the structure that you're used to, even it means your list is "get up, drink water, make lunch, exercise". Completing a task always helps to gratify.

Maintain the structure that you're used to, even it means your list is ‘get up, drink water, make lunch, exercise'. Completing a task always helps to gratify

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and at Pilot Light we have put together a host of things to highlight how it's possible to help yourself and others improve their mental health. We've got three live cook-along sessions with Tom Brown, Brad Carter and Kirk Haworth, our Pilot Light guest talks have been running every day from 1pm, and we have also had some interactive activities, such as yoga, personal training, and sound meditation classes. Please reach out to us on Instagram @pilotlightcampaign for more information on joining everything that is going on.

But I guess what I'm trying to say is, let's look at you, the owner. How are you feeling? Look after your mental health right now and let this energy flow through into your staff, because if they're not OK, will they be ready to return to work when lockdown is over? If you're not OK, will you?

Doug Sanham is a chef and co-founder and director of mental health campaign Pilot Light

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